Making Small Groups Work: What Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know

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Overview

Lead small groups through astounding growth with principles from the best-selling books How People Grow and Boundaries. No matter what need brings a group of people together---from marriage enrichment to divorce recovery, from grief recovery to spiritual formation---members are part of a small group because they want to grow. This book by psychologists Henry Cloud and John Townsend provides small-group leaders with valuable guidance and information on how they can help their groups to grow spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. With insights from their best-selling book How People Grow, Cloud and Townsend show how God’s plan for growth is made up of three key elements: grace plus truth plus time. When groups embrace those elements, they find God’s grace and forgiveness and learn how to handle their imperfections without shame as they model God’s love and support to one another. In addition to describing what makes small groups work, Leading Small Groups That Help People Grow explains the roles and responsibilities of both leaders and group members. Employing tenets from the book How People Grow, this book equips leaders to understand the ins and outs of how to promote growth, and using principles from their best-selling book Boundaries, they show how to identify and find solutions for common problems such as boredom, noncompliance, passivity, aggression, narcissism, spiritualization, over-neediness, over-giving, and nonstop talking.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310250289
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 8/1/2003
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 220,364
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Henry Cloud is a popular speaker, and co-host, with Dr. John Townsend, of the nationally broadcast New Life Live! Radio program, and cofounder of Cloud-Townsend Clinic and Cloud-Townsend Resources. His bestselling books include the Gold Medallion Award-winning Boundaries books and Making Small Groups Work. Dr. Cloud and his wife and two daughters live in Southern California.

Dr. John Townsend is a psychologist, popular speaker, co-host of the nationally broadcast New Life Live! radio program, and a cofounder of the Cloud-Townsend Clinic and Cloud-Townsend Resources. He has written or co-written twenty-seven books, including the bestselling Boundaries, Safe People, and Hiding from Love. He and his wife, Barbi, live in southern California. They have two grown sons.

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Read an Excerpt

Making Small Groups Work

What Every Small Group Leaders Needs to Know
By Henry Cloud John Townsend

Zondervan

Copyright © 2003 Henry Cloud and John Townsend
All right reserved.


Chapter One

God's Surprising Plan for Growth

I will never forget the scene. I (Henry) was doing a training session with seventy-five ministry leaders on how to build small groups that change lives, and they were getting excited about the possibilities. On that particular afternoon I talked about the psychological and relational healing that people experience as they open up with others in a small group. I told of miracles I had seen, and I tried to cast a vision of how life-changing their ministries could be if they learned a few simple concepts.

Then it happened. A guy in the middle of the room just couldn't take it anymore, and he erupted. "I can't allow this to go on any longer!" he said.

"Allow what?" I asked, somewhat taken aback by his interruption.

"This distortion of the Bible," he said. "I can't allow it."

I asked what he meant by "distortion of the Bible." God knows, that is the last thing I would ever want to do, so I wanted to hear him out.

"People grow in one way-through teaching the Bible, preaching the Word of God!" he said. "All this stuff about vulnerability and opening up to each other in groups is not in the Bible. You are distorting the way people grow. We are to teach the Word and let the Bible do its work."

"Well," I said. "Let's see what the Bible itself has to say. Let's see, for example, what Paul thought about 'opening up' to each other." You could feel the tension in the room.

I opened my Bible and read: "We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange-I speak as to my children-open wide your hearts also" (2 Corinthians 6:11-13).

I went on to read other passages that affirmed the basic power of community and relationships and the New Testament's commands for us to walk in community. I gave an apologetic for how the body of Christ helps us grow. But the man was not buying in so quickly. Instead, he gave me a lesson from his own experience.

"I grew by learning the Bible and walking in the Spirit," he said. "My life changed by learning that one truth. Then when I learned more about the Bible, my life continued to change. I was radically transformed by the Truth. Before that, I was a mess. I was out of control, and a lot was wrong. God changed my life by that one truth."

I know the ministry he was involved in when this all happened. I also know enough about life change to describe what I thought had happened.

"I am sure that learning the Bible and walking in the Spirit were huge for you, as they are for all of us in the spiritual life," I said. "I cannot imagine trying to grow or change without those two things. But I also know enough about the ministry you were in to know that other things happened as well.

"You were a college student, floating and lost. You were, as you say, 'out of control.' Then a leader from the ministry reached out and in very real ways befriended you. He told you about God. He taught you some of the truths you are talking about.

"Then he did something else that was key. He invited you to become part of a small group of students that he led. Together you studied the Bible and learned God's transforming truths. But you did much more.

"You also, in that small group, lived out and experienced those truths. You opened up to each other about your struggles. You confessed your sins to each other. They offered and helped you feel God's forgiveness. You held each other accountable. When you went through tough times with school or your girlfriend broke up with you, the group supported you, cried with you, and helped you sort it out. They prayed with you, and you sought God together.

"Next they recognized your talents and abilities and encouraged you to use them. They challenged you to take risks, to grow and stretch. In fact, you are probably here today because they pushed you out of your comfort zone more than once.

"When you failed, they comforted you, but did not let you quit. You grew because they encouraged you as your family never did.

"Also, they modeled how to do life. They showed you how to relate and accomplish things in ministry. They let you watch how they did it and then try it for yourself. In that process, you became a lot of who you are today.

"As that community did studies on relationships, you confessed how you fell short in your dating life and you began to treat others differently, starting with them. You learned how to give acceptance and be honest with others-confronting them when necessary, holding them accountable, and being more real than you had ever been.

"I could go on about your involvement with that community and small group, but I think we get the picture. You are right when you say your life was radically transformed. And you are right when you say that God's truth and learning to walk in the Spirit changed your life. But you are wrong when you say that all growth, even your own, comes only from 'teaching and preaching' or learning the Bible. For that is not what the Bible says.

"Your growth also came from the role that the body of Christ, your small group and your leader, played in your life. They delivered the 'goods' you learned about in the Bible. They obeyed what it said to do, and you were the beneficiary.

"Now, the question is, why do you do one thing and say another? Why do you receive those gifts of God and yet tell others that they are to grow some other way? Why do you rob them of what you yourself have experienced and what Paul commanded the Corinthians to do?" I said.

The room was silent. Everyone was reflecting on their own experience of change through spiritual relationships and small group communities. The man I'd addressed just looked at me and then went on with some sort of "yes, but ..." about the real value coming out of teaching and preaching. But he was caught, and the others knew it as well.

The "Say-Do" Gap

I did not really fault the man for his position. He had inherited it from many teachers before him. In fact, he and I met later on and had very good talks. He eventually came around to thinking we were "saying the same thing," as he put it. At least, he began to say that small groups and community are a valid part of the process. Whether or not he would say they are as valid as teaching was a little harder for him to do.

But I could understand where he was coming from. It was the "say-do" disconnect. Often, what we say or what we believe is not really what we do or what happens in real life, even when things go well. We say that one thing causes growth, when in reality we do many things to accomplish that growth. The say-do disconnect is common in the church.

We hold up, and rightly so, Bible study, spiritual disciplines, and direct relationship with God as the paths to spiritual formation. We talk about them, teach on them, practice them, and read books on them, and they slowly become a paradigm in and of themselves of how we grow. And they are vital.

Even so, at the same time, we are doing other things as well. We are connecting with each other, supporting each other, encouraging each other, confessing to each other, and doing a zillion other things the Bible tells us to do in community. All these produce growth, healing, and change. Yet we don't often have a theology for those actions. We do them by happenstance or because our church has decided to "get current" and have some small groups. But we don't hear much biblical teaching on how we grow through connections with other believers in a small group, at least as being a part of doctrine.

In short, while we have a cultural movement of small groups in the church, we often lack a theological vision for their role. Nor do we have practical ways of how to do that vision. We have not given small group processes the weight the New Testament does. As a result, we often experience a stagnated, limited version of being in relationship with God. If by chance we do experience growth through groups, we don't recognize God's role in it. Without a theological vision for growth through small groups, we lose it.

I felt for the man and his limited view that all God does comes through the Bible or direct intervention. I felt also for the people under his teaching. But I was not judging him-because I used to share his view. I had to learn the hard way how God uses small groups and community.

Plan A and Plan B

I went to college with big dreams and expectations. When I was a high school senior, the Southern Methodist University golf coach invited me to Dallas to tour the school and recruit me to come play golf there in the fall. I remember the excitement of playing a U.S. Open course on that trip and dreaming about playing college golf. One week before I left for college, a tendon popped in my left hand. The severe pain abated with cortisone treatments, but it would come back as soon as the medicine wore off. When I got to school, the coach who had recruited me had left, and I was never pain-free long enough to build on my skills. Finally, after two years of struggle, playing well for a while and then poorly, I quit the game that I had dedicated my youth to.

Feeling depressed and bored with my studies, I tried to keep my lost feelings at bay with parties and dating.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Making Small Groups Work by Henry Cloud John Townsend Copyright © 2003 by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments.........................................................11
Tapping into the Power of Small Groups..................................13
PART 1 How Small Groups Help People Grow
1. God's Surprising Plan for Growth.....................................19
2. What Are We Trying to Do as Small Group Leaders?.....................31
3. The Ingredients of Grace, Truth, and Time............................41
4. Benefits of Groups That Grow.........................................56
PART 2 What Happens in a Good Group
Introduction............................................................66
5. A Second Family......................................................67
6. Connection...........................................................71
7. Discipline and Structure.............................................74
8. Prayer...............................................................78
9. Accountability.......................................................81
10. Forgiveness.........................................................85
11. Support and Strengthening...........................................88
12. Mentoring...........................................................91
13. Grieving............................................................94
14. Healing.............................................................98
15. Confrontation.......................................................101
16. Modeling............................................................104
17. Acceptance of Weakness..............................................107
18. Discipleship........................................................111
PART 3 Starting a Small Group
19. Decide on the Purpose and Type of Group.............................117
20. Choose Study Materials..............................................125
21. Design the Frame....................................................129
22. Select Members......................................................132
23. Establish the Ground Rules..........................................137
PART 4 The Responsibilities of Group Facilitators
24. Balance Grace, Truth, and Time......................................143
25. Facilitate Process..................................................146
26. Listen..............................................................152
27. Provide Safety......................................................158
28. Clarify and Ask Questions...........................................162
29. Confront............................................................165
30. Set Limits..........................................................171
31. Be an Authority.....................................................175
32. Require Integration.................................................177
33. Allow Silent Moments................................................180
34. Interpret Themes, Symbols, and Meanings.............................183
35. Help Contain Strong Emotions........................................187
PART 5 The Responsibilities of Group Members
36. Expect the Unexpected...............................................193
37. Be Known............................................................196
38. Really Listen to Each Other.........................................202
39. Give and Receive Feedback...........................................205
40. Learn to Love.......................................................211
41. Practice Obedience..................................................216
42. Make Positive Changes...............................................220
43. Learn New Skills....................................................224
44. Discover and Develop Gifts..........................................229
45. Discern Harmful Patterns............................................233
46. Confess and Repent..................................................237
47. Take Risks..........................................................241
48. Grieve..............................................................246
PART 6 How to Deal with Problems in Groups
49. Neediness...........................................................253
50. Noncompliance.......................................................257
51. Passivity...........................................................261
52. Shut Up.............................................................264
53. Aggression..........................................................268
54. Narcissism..........................................................272
55. Spiritualization....................................................276
Go and Grow.............................................................280
Appendix: Getting More Out of This Book.................................281
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2003

    Excellent Resource for Small Group Facilitating

    After reading through this book, I foresee using it periodically to take the pulse of the groups I lead (and the groups where I'm a member). The chapters are short and to the point, so that I can jump to a particular area where I need guidance in my current situation. Each area provides a big picture vision and then some practical ways to work out that vision.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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